Today's Papers

Unhappy Ending

The New York Times leads with growing collaboration between armed Sunnis and U.S. forces in Iraq. The Los Angeles Times leads with another odd alliance, that between Sudan and the U.S. USA Today goes with a story on potentially life-saving armored vehicles that are ready to be manufactured at $500,000 a pop and that the Pentagon has yet to order. The Washington Post leads with a story on the administration illegally taking into account political affiliation in hiring immigration judges. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide news box with President Bush’s call for Kosovo’s independence, increasing tensions with Russia. The final episode of The Sopranos gets the front of the NYT and USA Today.

The NYT is following up on this detailed WP account of an odd ground-level alliance of last resort. The Post reported Saturday, based on interviews with Sunni militants, that the U.S. is now arming some Sunnis who have fought against us in the past. The insurgents now consider al-Qaida to be a more important foe.

The NYT gives some historical context to this alliance, noting that arming rebel groups hasn’t always worked quite as planned. “Americans officers acknowledge that providing weapons to breakaway rebel groups is not new in counterinsurgency warfare, and that in places where it has been tried before, including the French colonial war in Algeria, the British-led fight against insurgents in Malaya in the early 1950s, and in Vietnam, the effort often backfired, with weapons given to the rebels being turned against the forces providing them.”

The LAT wades into the “complex realities of the post-Sept. 11 world” with its piece on intelligence cooperation between Sudan, which the Bush administration accuses of an ongoing genocide campaign, and the Bush administration. Because of Sudan’s open borders, fighters regularly pass through on their way to Iraq, giving Sudanese intelligence a chance to funnel in agents or recruit spies. Some intelligence analysts discount the effort, though, arguing that Sudanese militants are mere “cannon fodder” for al-Qaida and will never be in a position of real power.

Armored vehicles dubbed “the Bull” have proved effective  at protecting occupants from the most deadly roadside bombs now being deployed by insurgents in Baghdad, which accounted for 80 percent of U.S. casualties last month. The Pentagon, however, has yet to order any of these Bulls, leaving Senate foreign relations committee chairman Joe Biden, D-Del., angry. The company says it could produce about 100 per month. The vehicle the military current uses to protect troops from the newest explosives doesn’t actually do so.

The WP has done the “first systematic examination of the people appointed to immigration courts” and finds that political connections often came into play, helping to reshape the court system with control over deportations. That would be a crime. Or, as the Post says in its subhead: “Law Forbids Practice.”

The administration sounds guilty without saying so: “Department officials say they changed their hiring practices in April but defend their selections.” We didn’t do anything wrong, but we don’t do it anymore. Honest.

The WSJ reports that Bush received a hero’s welcome in Kosovar-dominated Albania, where he called for Kosovo’s independence. Google narced on Microsoft to the Justice Department, charging that its new Vista desktop-search program makes Google’s and others’ difficult to use. And the paper gives prime real estate to a piece on Disney’s efforts to win foreign audiences.

The NYT goes above the fold with a story called “States Finding Fiscal Surprise: A Cash Surplus.” The windfall is not only a surprise to legislators and NYT headline writers but should be to Times’ readers, as well. The paper’s lead Sunday story two months ago, on April 8, reported that just the opposite was true, thanks to shrinking revenue from the housing slump. The evidence is hidden behind the Times Select wall, but TPer Roger McShane, who noticed the flip-flop and alerted this TPer, has the goods here.

He noted in April that readers had to wait till the 29th paragraph of “Housing Slump Pinches States in Pocketbook” to learn that “it is still too early to know how most states’ fiscal years will end.” McShane wrote: “But the Times is certain that Florida, which has no income tax, is indeed being pinched. Lower-than-expected tax revenues mean it ‘has $303 million less than anticipated for its $70 billion budget.’ Looks like it may have to cut back its spending by less than half of 1 percent.”

Or not. Florida, the NYT now reports, raked in nearly $2.7 billion more than it expected, a 9 percent surplus. Wait a minute, NYT: That doesn’t look right, either. Wouldn’t 9 percent of $70 billion be more than twice that? Fuggedaboutit, let’s move on.

The WSJ has a piece on page A3 about a $250 million World Bank program to pay countries not to destroy their rainforests. *  The prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case will face ethics charges this week, USAT reports.

The Washington Post fronts a literary take on a Reader’s Digest-type survival story—complete with the italicized contemporaneous thoughts of the survivor—this one of a Navy Seal badly wounded in Afghanistan. The story promises quite the payoff. “Out of that darkness comes this spark of a story. It is a tale of moral choices and of prejudices transcended. It is also a reminder of how challenging it is to be a smart soldier, and how hard it is to be a good man.”

Homage to Tony Soprano … There’s plenty of analysis out there of The Sopranosfinale  and surely there will be more to come. For our part, TP found the ending to be

Correction, June 12, 2007: This article originally stated that the World Bank rainforest program costs $250 billion. (Return  to the corrected sentence.)